Birch Bark Tinder

Different tinders have their benefits. Most need to be completely dry to work. One great exception is birch bark. This is not the kind of tinder that catches a spark easily, like fluffy cattail duff or a dandelion seed ball, but more like kindling, it really burns well once lit by a flame. It is best used in conjunction with fluffy tinder when using spark-based fire lighting techniques. However, when you do have a flame source for starting a fire, birch bark works great. The oils within the bark sustain flames even when damp.

In my area, river birch is the indigenous variety that yields much tinder. When collecting birch bark, take the papery parts that have already separated from the trunk of the tree. This is dead material, and you don’t want to strip live material that is fastened to the trunk. You may notice that the paper-like bark has different layers. The outer-most layer is similar to flaky sun-burnt skin… so thin that you can almost read through it. Deeper layers tend to be thicker, and more difficult to separate.

For fun, you can dip a piece of bark into some water, then wipe it off with your hands or on your clothes. You can probably split off a layer or more from there. Hold the pieces vertically and place a lit match beneath the bottom edge. You’ll be surprised at the flames that develop. It will probably smoke a little too as the oils begin to burn. This ability to stay lit in a moist environment could be a life saver when in the snow country or in rainy conditions.

Give birch bark a try, and add it to your firecraft experience.

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